The 42 Competition Form is a standardized routine that is comprised of movements from four of the five recognized taijiquan family styles: Chen, Yang, Wu (Quan-yu) and Sun. Moves were chosen for their representation of their family style, with some being slow, fluid and graceful and others being energetic and powerful. The set was created in 1989 by the Chinese Sports Committee, headed by Professor Li Deyin. The flavor and technique of each style is emphasized- the "silk reeling" and explosive power of Chen Style, the graceful, smooth yet solid movements of Yang Style, the exquisite subtleties of Wu Style, the flexible, agile, self-defense moves of Sun Style and the eight hand, five foot sparring techniques of push hands.
This set was choreographed with aesthetics, technical difficulty and athletic demand in the forefront of consideration. The 42 Competition Forms has become a staple at taijichuan exibitions and competitions, demonstrating both the fluidity and power of taijiquan.
Below is a YouTube video of an excellent performance of the Taijiquan 42 Competition form by Master Wang Yanji.
The 42 Forms contains the essential principles and important
characteristics of the four major styles, retains the traditional principles of
Tai Chi, is rich in content and technique, meticulous constructed and is fully
compliant with competition rules.
terms of structure, it follows the general principle of The 24 Forms but
with some significant differences. It starts with Form 2 Stroking Birds Tail
immediately after the Form 1 Commencing Form. This movement displays
technique and style to attract peoples' (for both the practitioner and the
spectator) interest and attention, yet it still provides gentle stretching of
the upper and lower body. The rest of the first section also serves as a warm up
but with movements that are more substantial than those of the 24 Forms.
Form 17 Cover with Hand and Punch with Fist
The second section starts with the Sun style's Form 11 Opening and Closing,
not only is this the most characteristic movement of the Sun style, it also
signifies the importance of Qigong within the set. Near the end of this section,
the first climax appears with the Form 17 Cover with Hand and Punch with Fist
and Forms 18 Parting Wild Horse's Mane from the more vigorous Chen
style. Since there are more contents in The 42 Forms, two climaxes are
needed. Section 3 starts with Form 19 Waving Hands Like Clouds, a slower
and easier movement to break up the intensity, then to more difficult movements
to prepare for the next. The second climax starts with the fourth section by the
movements such as Form 32 Body Thrust with half Horse Stance, Form 33
Turn Body with Full Roll-Back and Forms 34 Hold and Punch in Crossed
Squatting Stance. Then logically the winding down comes in to finished off
with another Form 40 Stroking Bird's Tail on the other side.
Throughout the Forms the
balance of the body is well maintained by giving roughly equal numbers of
movements for both sides (many of the traditional Forms only have the right-side
movements). Each movement is carefully composed to provide suitable exercise for
all parts of the body, to improve mental relaxation and mental concentration, to
acquire a wide range of Tai Chi techniques and to improve the function of all
Form 33 Turn Body with Full Roll-Back
The Composition of 42 Forms
While the 42 Forms is the combination of four major styles, each style
is not represented in equal proportion, the majority of the Forms are Yang
style. Being the most popular style, which is characterised by gentle and
graceful movements, it is appropriate for Yang’s to be the main building
blocks of the set.
Form 11 Opening and Closing of Hands, Forms 12 Single Whip, Forms
14 Turn Body and Push Palm are Sun style. They are characterised by flowing
movement like water in a stream, much Qigong (Chi Gong) practise such as Form
11, and whenever one foot stepping forward or backward the other foot follows.
Practitioners of Yang style will notice the significant difference of Form 12 in
Sun and the Yang styles.
Form 17 Cover with Hand and Punch with Fist, Form 18 Parting Wild Horse’s
Mane and Form 32 Body Thrust with Half Horse Stance are Chen Style.
Chen is characterised by being more vigorous, containing attacking movements and
more obvious self defence application. Punching movements are abundant in Chen
style and Form 17 is a typical example of them.
Forms 20 Step Back to Subdue Tiger, Forms 21 Kicking with Toes Forward,
Form 34 Hold and Punch in Crossed Squatting Stance and Forms 35 Thread
Palm and Lowering Movements are Wu style, which is characterised by close to
body movements and agile steps.
Form 39 Drawing Bow to Shoot Tiger
The Pros of the 42 Forms
It is amazing to have a set of Forms, which embraces four major styles yet
have its own life and spirit. It is rich in contents and techniques yet easy
enough for almost anyone to learn.
It also did well to:
Express and emphasise the fundamental requirements of Tai Chi such as
tranquillity and a relaxed body, internal component (mental, or your will)
leads the external movement of the body and softness compliments the hardness.
Retains the traditional principles of Tai Chi.
Incorporates the knowledge of modern medical science so that the Forms
become more balanced, physiologically sound and more health oriented.
To do all these within six minutes is a great achievement.
The Cons of the 42 Forms
It is very hard to think of any negative point for The 42 Forms,
perhaps the beginners might find it easier to learn The 24 Forms first
before starting on the 42 Forms, as it is more difficult. It is a
relatively "young" set, therefore has not been scientifically tested
for it's health benefits. Although based on our knowledge of medicine and Tai
Chi, many believe it should have greater benefits than The 24 Forms. For
non-competition purpose, I slightly prefer The 48 Forms because it allows
more time to express the contents and it is more balanced on both side of the
While the competition time limit is 6 minutes, which does not allow a fuller
expression of slowness with inner force, for normal practise it is recommended
to do the Forms from 6 to 10 minutes.
The 42 Forms is well created with a great deal of thought and work. It
contains a rich mixture of styles and techniques, yet breathes its own life as a
wonderfully integrated set of Forms. It is designed to be suitable from the
novice to the most advanced practitioners, fulfilling the modern needs, offering
maximal benefits and techniques in a minimal time. Being beautiful to watch and
practise, The 42 Forms has certainly proven to be very popular with many
Tai Chi enthusiasts.